Palace to comply with SC order to answer plea vs. Chico River deal

MANILA MalacaAang will comply with the Supreme Court's order to respond to a petition challenging the legality of the Chinese-funded PHP3.69-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in northern Luzon.

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo made this reaction after the High Court directed the Office of the Solicitor General (SolGen) to answer the petition filed by the Makabayan bloc to stop the controversial loan agreement with China over questions on its constitutionality.

We will always respect whatever the other branches do or perform following the Constitutional directives to each branch so we will respond to the petition, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo said the SolGen will insist that the Chinese-funded project is aboveboard since it has already passed through concerned agencies including the Commission on Audit, Department of Finance, among others.

It will respond properly. The loan agreement has passed through many channels, there has been a review, evaluations. We feel that it is not in violation of the Constitution as alleged by the petitioner, Panelo said.

Early this month, a group of party-list lawmakers filed a petition before the SC seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the loan agreement.

They claimed that certain provisions in the agreement put the Philippines at the disadvantage and made it possible for China to acquire patrimonial properties in the Philippines.

The petitioners are former Bayan Muna Rep. and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Gabriela Reps. Emmy De Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Office of the Solicitor General, the Department of Justice, and all legal departments to review all contracts entered into by the government with private corporations and/or countries.

Panelo assured that the controversial Chinese loan agreements will be covered by the review.

All contracts, existing contracts, they will have to be subjected to scrutiny, Panelo said, noting that this would determine whether any contracts contain onerous provisions.

Upon completion, the project would water about 8,700 hectares of agricultural land and benefit more than 4,300 families in the provinces of Kalinga and Cagayan. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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